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Ordering the City: Revolution, Modernity and Road Renaming in Shanghai, 1949–1966

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Publication details

JournalUrban History
DateAccepted/In press - 18 Jan 2021
DatePublished (current) - 14 Apr 2021
Number of pages19
Original languageEnglish


Between 1949 and 1966, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-led municipal government of Shanghai renamed more than one in seven of the city’s roads. Renaming was an important marker of revolutionary change in China’s largest and most foreign-influenced city. Road renaming in socialist China has been commonly understood to have been extensive. This article argues, however, that the nature and extent of renaming in socialist Shanghai was less dramatic than has been assumed. It demonstrates that renaming was not simply an iconoclastic process, but rather involved the pragmatic weighing of symbolic change against potential disruption. Further, it contends that renaming was driven by a desire to order the city, in line with the CCP’s modernist worldview.

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    Research areas

  • China, Shanghai, Communism, Urban History, Toponymy

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